Gilens on American Attitudes Toward Welfare

A Fortune article summarized Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens’ analysis of American attitudes toward welfare in order to better understand the effect of the pandemic on the country. New studies have found that the poorest Americans have gotten poorer during the pandemic, despite unemployment benefit programs such as the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. On the other side of the U.S.-Canada border, Canadians received $2,000 deposited directly into their bank accounts days after filling out an online form as part of the Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit. Canada’s social safety net and collectivist mindset have supported Canadians during the pandemic, resulting in fewer deaths and COVID-19 infections compared to the U.S. after adjusting for population size differences, the article stated. It cited Gilens’ book “Why Americans Hate Welfare,” which argues that individualism, economic self-interest, the trope of the “undeserving” welfare recipient and racial discrimination each contribute to American attitudes on wealth redistribution through taxation.


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